Tiki Oasis Friday August 19, 2016
For the uninitiated, Tiki Oasis is a San Diego weekender that occurs mid-August every year to celebrate Tiki culture with a soundtrack of surf, exotica and garage music. Drinking is heavily encouraged while the hosts, Otto and Baby Doe von Stroheim, present symposiums, yoga, classes, shopping, car shows and plenty of live music! The Crown Plaza Hotel is completely taken over and bands perform on a large outdoor stage (this year festooned with a Creature From the Black Lagoon head shown below as the theme was Monster Island), by the pool, at the car show and in various, wild room parties (usually among the craziest highlights of the weekend). It is impossible to do everything, but there is always something to do and you will always need at least a few days afterwards to recover!
We attempted to arrive for the Thursday night opening party at the local Bali Hai Restaurant, but due to the California fires, we got there at the end of the live music so simply checked in, had a quick drink and went back to our room.
Friday morning started out with poolside live music by the local teenage surf band, the Millionaire Beach Bums. Always encouraging to see youngsters into cool live music and they attack surf standards with talent'n'energy, although the set consists mostly of fairly obvious covers. Hopefully, they will start writing some of their own material as they can play and seem to have the right sensibilities.
We killed some time with lunch and mixing some drinks and then over to the main stage for the "official" opening of Tiki Oasis with a silly skit led by goofball MC, King Kukulele. This set the theme of the weekend with monsters, Godzilla, the "fairy twins" from the Japanese monster movies and go-go dancers greeting the crowd.
First band up was Black Magic Beach Party, a snappily dressed, 2 guitar/bass/keys/drums combo playing original surf with a touch of horror'n'exotica thrown in. During one song the keyboard player put on a werewolf mask and jumped into the audience and got the crowd dancing! Pretty impressive for the first band in the bright daylight! It was a beautiful day, though, and a lot of people did show up for the entire proceedings.
Next was The Jimmy Psycho Experiment, an odd mix of backing tracks, bass, percussion and something that sounded like a synth-marimba! The tunes consisted of cover versions of songs like "Space Oddity, "Ring of Fire", "Blitzkrieg Bop", "I Put a Spell on You", etc., done in a instrumental/lounge style. Different and a uniquely cool sound.
At one point they were joined by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid for a display of pyrotechnicly-enhanced dancing. Impressive!
One of the many peaks of the weekend for me was certainly the Messer Chups from Russia. This trio has an excellent guitarist in Oleg Gitarkin, a fine, strong drummer (Dr. Boris) and a evilly lovely bassist named Zombierella! I thought that they had one of the best stage sounds and truly strong, original songs. A portion of the set was instrumental but Zombierella would occasionally sing and the other two would join in on backing vocals/malevolent laughs. Oleg produced a variety of guitar tones and they definitely had some punk energy as they went through numbers with hints of the Munsters, the James Bond theme, and Sandy Nelson. Very cool!
For the climax of the evening, we got Donna Loren and the Shindiggers. Donna appeared in a number of the classic AIP "beach" movies and would sing rockin' tunes throughout - as she did this evening backed by a crack band led by none other than guitar wiz Deke Dickerson. Apparently, she hasn't performed live since the 60's, but still looked great and had a fine voice. She was joined by a couple of female backing singers and a female bassist who filled out the vocal sound as they rocked through "Shakin' All Over", "Wishin' and Hopin'", "Goldfinger", several from the Beach movies - including a medley of beach songs - "It Only Hurts When I Cry", "Do the Zonk" and more. Deke got to do an instrumental somewhere in there and a good time was had by all - including Donna, from all appearances!
There were room parties galore, but we headed to the Las Vegas Golden Tiki room to see the Swank Bastards' Jesse Del Quadro do the Hex Bastards with Clay and Denise Heximer (from Melanie and the Midnite Marauders)! They were not "officially" scheduled and Clay'n'Denise are not regular members of the Bastards, so they kept it short'n'sweet, but did a great job revvin' up the crowd - and boy, did it get crowded!
The Golden Tiki's house DJ, Professor Rex Dart, spun the sounds in between bands and through the night, as he does back home and did a fab job, as always.
But, the night really belonged to Franks'n'Deans, featuring one of the Golden Tiki's original drink-slingers, Arpee Sampson, who, along with Hoss, Rob, and Pip, recreate Rat Pack tunes as punk rock numbers. I think they had four sets (!) of songs that they eventually plowed through, such as a ska version of "Chain Gang", "Do the Mess Around" (with Hoss' guitar pedals creating keyboard sounds), "The Lady is a Tramp", "New York, New York" and tons more. The guys certainly enjoyed playing for a jam-packed, sweaty room filled with dancin' folks (as best as they could with what little room there was) and they played and sang exceptionally well this eve. Dancer Nickole Muse added a visual component to the show and engaged'n'teased the audience throughout the night. We eventually called it quits long before the band did so that we could make it through the next day!
Oh yeah! And there was a live tiki carving, as well!